The Magazine Story

 

“……… And that, dear reader, was the beginning of the beginning!………”

 

The magazine made a lazy scrunching noise as I screwed it up then tossed it to the other end of the settee.  Even more annoying was it sliding off the cushion and onto the dog’s back. From a mildly twitching sleep she jumped onto all four legs before looking round and down at the runkled pages lying where she had been.  A baleful, accusing, look at me and she collapsed again with all four legs splayed out, snout flat on the floor and a heavy sigh. That was it!

Wouldn’t you have expected more of a reaction?  Not that the magazine was heavy, maybe the equivalent of a stiff pillow landing on your back when you are fast asleep  but even then the shock ought to be more than a look and a disappointed sigh.

Mind, I never got worse than that when the phone rang and I had to get up and go out, leaving the wife, when we should have been in bed playing about!    I suppose I should say ‘having sex’ but I always was old-fashioned.  Yes, I got too used to a look and a sigh.  So did she, I suppose, watching me leave in the middle of the night.  It got too regular.  Me always going rather than coming.

Then it did get worse.  She left.  I got home at ten in the morning after an extended shift all night.  A messy GBH, bit of a chase and then the interview and write-up.  By then I had been awake over twenty four hours and managed to say ‘hello’ before hauling myself upstairs and collapsing on the bed.   She called ‘Bye, I’m leaving’ up the stairs.  I didn’t even hear the door close.

You guessed it!  She was gone.  I woke mid-afternoon, stiff as a board, with the dog doing its deer-hound impression in a desperate attempt to get someone to open the door to get out.  Eventually I twigged and scrambled down to open the garden door.  Even more eventually I saw the note leaning against the kettle.   A very small scrap of paper with just one line written on it, the last word squeezed in and nearly falling over the edge.   I read it as I waited for the kettle to boil.    What do you do?     I read it again.  So short a note and no ifs or buts; gone!

All the emotions you would expect filtered through me, I won’t actually say them, use your imagination!  The problem was that I was due on shift again in three hours and still had a dog dropping toys at my feet trying to entice me into the garden to play.    It was okay for the dog having just relieved itself; it took no notice of my predicament.  Mind you it hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that I was now it’s benefactor.    It would have been more worried if it had realised sooner.

I read the brief one-line letter again.  You really ought to say more than ‘I’m leaving and won’t be back’, and that written on a torn-off strip two inches high.  Maybe that’s what I deserve.  We never had much quiet time.  Had!  Work eats into your life and there’s no life left!

I spent the next hour drinking more mugs of tea than I should, sliced some cheese, made some toast and broke it into a cheese sandwich.   The dog.  Can’t leave the dog all night on its own, haven’t even taken it for a walk.    Sod it!

I brushed the crumbs off my shirt, realised I was still in the same clothes I put on thirty-six-odd hours ago and looked at the phone. I didn’t dare ring her mobile.  I think I smelled of my own sweat, maybe the smell from the victims vomit hung around me too. The dog dropped the toy at my feet yet again and pleaded, eye to eye with me.

Resolutely I moved to the phone and rang the Station. We don’t have such a thing as HR just the Duty Sargent.  I rang him, spoke with a bit of a hitch in my voice and just garbled that the wife had walked out and I had to look after the dog until I could sort something out.

I relented over the dog and went into the garden.  It followed, pushed its way past me at the door and collapsed by the wall of the yard; looked at me from its prone position, eyes flickering between me and the ball it had let dribble out of its mouth.    We played for a few minutes.  I threw the ball onto a paving slab for it to bounce onto and off the yard wall at an angle for the dog to jump overly-excitedly and catch it.  Thud, bonk, scrabble.  Thud, bonk, scrabble.  And a third time.  Fourth time the dog just watched as the ball rebounded and bounced mildly on the slabs to a stop.    She sat on her haunches, looked at the ball and up at me.  A quick stick-out of her tongue and strolled back indoors.  Typical!

So, another satisfied customer.   At least it didn’t involve projectile vomit or handcuffs this time.

I followed the dog.

Back indoors, shift cancelled, dog played with, I had eaten; nothing for it but to watch television for an hour or maybe get the whisky bottle.  I should have gone to work.   No time to think there.   Always doing something even if only gossiping or catching up with ongoing crime.   Sorry, should call them cases these days, they are not crimes until CPS tells us to proceed and that only happens if all forensics are there; and on and on.  Even when they put their hands up it still has to hang around getting the paperwork certified.

I sat there like that.  Thinking.   Soaps were on, I couldn’t watch them without the wife being there.  They were her favourites, I usually just sat and half-watched.  That was good enough to follow the storylines until the police programmes at nine o’clock.    I stopped thinking and watched the dog wash its arse yet again.  That reminded me I still hadn’t showered but I couldn’t be bothered.  ‘Still too tired’ I thought to myself but knew it was more than that.

Maybe I was working too hard, rather, too often.  But there is always work to catch up, thieves or whatever’s to chase and officers off sick to cover for.  I can understand when they get hurt, that’s often enough, but all the buggers that claim tension or depression get my goat.  They should get up off their backsides and back on the job.  I do.  I work day after day, or rather night after night getting covered in sick or kicked or somesuch just like the others.  You put on a brave face, pretend to smile even if you haven’t slept a wink for days.   You have to be nice to the public,  positive with colleagues, always watching their back, your back.  My back!  What would it matter anyway.  There’s always some other sodding policeman to step in the gap when your down.

When I’m down?  I’m always down, always working, always angry or tired.   Both.   Poor girl, all she’s got for company is the bloody dog.   Looking at you all the time, trying to tell you something.  Always wants to be sitting beside you, head on your lap and pleading for sympathy.   Sympathy?   Who needs sympathy when you have to get up and be assaulted in the streets because you wear a uniform.   Stick to it.  Forget what the gov. says, and the doctors.  And look at today.  What am I worth?  A torn-off scrap of paper with not even a goodbye, just ‘I’m leaving’ .

It couldn’t be worse!  What happens now?  Self-pity is what I call it.  Depression they said but I don’t hold with it.

I sat there and saw the television screen glaze over and heard voices mangled.

Okay, I picked up the magazine, found the shortest story I could and forced myself to read it.

“One page:  cozy, girlie chat in a cafe. My goodness, where do they dig up these short stories!

It started off badly, surprise surprise! And then it frayed me at the edges as they started realising they were two peas in a pod, or some such rubbish and actually liked all the same stuff.   Within two thousand words they had moved from enemies to bosom-buddies about to house-share because of their mutual two-timing boyfriend!”

That’s how it finished; with the ‘beginning of the beginning….’.   And I crumbled the magazine and threw it and it fell onto the dog.    Okay, I admit it now, I sat there, misty-eyed, watching the dog settle again with its huge sigh.  I sat there.  Sat there.   Sat there in the now dark room for however long.

I never heard the front door open, no click disturbed my darkness.   A familiar hand ruffled my hair, a quick kiss on my balding spot.

“Hello love, shouldn’t you be at work?”

“I thought I would keep the dog company.”  I didn’t dare move or imagine, just fiddled with the note she had left me.   Folded it into a narrow strip and then again while she went upstairs.  Maybe to pack another bag?    I unfolded the note, flattened it on my knee.    I heard the toilet flush, tap run and then her feet on the stairs as I looked down at that unforgiving note.

..’..until really late, sorry, love you lots!’

She came into the room, ” I had to go and see Carol, she’s so upset! That husband of hers has left her.  It’s so good to get back here”. She sat heavily beside me, snuggled closer and grabbed my hand holding the note.

“Sorry it was on a scrappy piece,” she waved the hand she held, that held the note,  “it was the first bit I found in the drawer and I was in an awful rush, only just room even on both sides.”

The dog, intrigued by the waving hands with the fluttering piece of paper actually moved to sit in front of us and swayed her head sideways in its rhythm.  To me, she was shaking it in a,  “I told you not to panic”, mode.

I gently squeezed the hand that supported mine.

 

 

 

tags:  Burnthorpe

 

 

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Too Afraid to Cry: Windham Campbell Prize 2017

Too Afraid to Cry;     A memoir in prose and verse    

by     Ali Cobby Eckermann

Published by Ilura Press.

978 192132524 3         Paperback

Recently announced as a  winner of the Australian 2017 Windham Campbell prize for poetry.

Each year two prize winners in each category of poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction;  in its fifth year each winner receives US$165,000.

Link:   www.windhamcampbell.org.

A Graph Review:  average of 70 all through with touches of more for emotional connections!

A memoir but listed as poetry.

She has five other collections of poetry in print.

the book is series of prose sketches from the early childhood of Ali Cobby Eckermann interspersed with almost haunted verse and through teenage to adulthood and closing with a celebration of family.  As an aboriginal baby she was among the many forcibly taken from her mother soon after birth as part of Australian social policy of the time. She was adopted into a German Lutheran farming family with children, where she was loved, as was another adopted child.

However  with growing awareness of being different in a family of differing skin tones, and being subjected to various levels of abuses outside the family situation she developed assorted emotional problems and addictions as she grew to adulthood.   Her writing is beautifully simple, descriptive and at times lyrical yet often fearsomely matter-of-fact.  By jumping from scene to scene we watch the events through her eyes and begin to be informed of the abuses she suffers and the complications they set in train.  Time and tensions move on. Throughout she does maintain some friendships and family albeit tenuously at times.

The poem ‘Black‘  offers a step-change affirming her ‘Self’.   Returning to the brief ‘chapters’  of prose, where life goes on and bullying is amplified, she finds a form of relief in friendships with other adopted and non-adopted indigenous people and families but with an evermore self-destructive life style.  Her writing style throughout continues as simple and matter-of-fact in telling her tale.

Maybe at her lowest point in the story, halfway-ish through the book, there is a subtle change in outlook.  She reports, still concisely, of feeling connections with ‘the earth’, elements of scenery around her and of a bigger emotion as the landscape expands into the wilderness she travels through. Perhaps a degree of comfort from the expanse and lifestyle.  Reading this section, of her growing awareness, created a surprising feeling of empathy on that connection.  From here the style of blunt and non-critical writing continues while her life improves and collapses episodically.

The writer begins to describe scenery as it infiltrates into her.  She is, almost unknowingly, absorbing her heritage of ageless culture and wisdom.   A smooth and subtle change while her language is still beautifully simple.  (I say simple.  I suppose I really mean excised of all unnecessary words.  If only I could write like that!!)

Blame is never considered by Ali but the reader surely can.  The story may read as a philosophy of: ‘life happens’ but the reasons why need to be addressed, especially the ‘happenings’ of now.  They may have been but Social Engineering for good or ill does have serious consequences in countless forms, mostly, it seems against women and children.   There, I’ve gone off-track and have only the direct result of reading this book to thank.   Yes, it is of a specific person but many aspects of her story are not only of the indigenous Australian but should resonate around the world in support of all who are nudged or beaten to the peripheries of society.

Ultimately this is a personal story of a baby, a child growing into adulthood and surviving a system of abuse and almost self-destruction to discover herself, her blood family, heritage and her own landscape.  A woman who has finally become whole.     Ali Cobby Eckermann’s book deserves international recognition.

This is one to recommend to all your friends and everyone else.

Little Sparrows

Madelie suddenly realised she must be feeling better.  Or rather, on consideration, as she was singing along with the radio, happier.  She could feel herself jiggling with the music as she peered into the wardrobe and ran her fingers along the shoulders of the hangers and their draped clothes.

“This little piggy went to market……” as she twisted the cream and chocolate crimplene dress for a fuller view before moving on, “This little piggy stayed at home……..”. As she moved on to a purple square-necked cotton shift, briefly, before alighting on the orange trouser-suit and with a “wee, wee, wee” deftly unhooked the hanger and settled the suit smoothly on the bed.    A simple white-collared blouse followed though she had more difficulty over a choice of tie.  Three were laid over the orange jacket in the hope that one claimed her attention most.

Pleased at making these decisions she looked out of the window through the large-patterned net and at the sun creeping above the houses opposite.  The chimneys drew black shadows along the terrace of sloping slate roofs and the nearest added the skinny shadows of the television aerials.

Maybe it was the rising sunshine that had lifted her above that black line in her mind under which she had been hiding for so long.  Hiding?  Yes, she had been hiding, it felt like it.  But what from?

She folded her arms and took a step closer to the glass and saw some sparrows dipping into the gutter opposite, reappearing with tufts of lichen then disappearing in a flurry of wings.

She looked down at the thin red streaks on the inside of her left arm, just below the elbow.  Stared out of the window again and lowered her folded arms a little, hugged them tighter to her ribs so her breast hid the marks.  The sparrows returned and busily tussled in the guttering and flew off again as each grabbed some packing for a nest.

Madelie had almost lost that sunshine moment but breathed it in again as a cloud shifted in the breeze and a shaft of sunlight hit her eyes making her turn away from it.   The movement brought the radio back into focus and “didn’t we have a lovely time, the day we went to Bangor!” made her smile again and back to dressing.

Fresh underwear stepped into,  bra settled into and hooks briefly struggled  with.  Sitting on the edge of the bed she folded first one leg of the tights over her hand then her toes into the toe of the nylon and unwound it over her foot to knee then repeated the operation before standing and adjusting the ridged waist-seam up to her hips.  Finally checking, straightening and smoothing the whole legs.   On the whole, she thought, tights were more comfortable than stockings, unless you snagged a leg, got a hole, then you had to bin the lot.  With stockings you stood a chance of having  a spare that matched.

Next was the blouse. Still smooth from being ironed though not that slightly crisp feel had it been freshly ironed.  Definitely not warm like straight off the ironing board!   She bent her head to watch her fingers button the blouse from top to bottom and brush away imaginary creases.

The radio chattered, early morning, bright and breezy cajoling from the ‘dj’ before another record, “now it’s time for ‘Mott the Hoople’ ” and the music slid into her head again.

Foot and leg, slight wobble, other foot and leg and she drew the orange trousers up high and adjusted her hip so she could pull the side-zip up then hook-and-eye the waist-tab securely.

She looked down at her flame-orange legs and indecision crept in. “Too bright?”  She had been a shabby dresser for so long that this was a dramatic step too far, she feared, briefly.

“No,” she said  aloud, “I’ll match the sunshine!”  And she turned to decide on the tie.

End over, hand over, round and under and through, eventually she got the rhythm and directions right and looked at herself in the mirror again to adjust the tie.   It was one of the newest style. Narrow Italian silk and design of bright horizontal bars of colour that eventually repeated after a scattering of red, white, green, yellow, orange, blue.

After a final easing the knot at her neck and removal of a defiant piece of fluff from her trousers she    Retrieved the jacket from the bed and eased into and buttoned it. Looked in the mirror and undid the buttons. More satisfied this time she left the room, grabbed her bag, checked for keys then rushed out of the little flat to try to gather some lost time.

Her rushing from the door down the short path and turning to briefly jog into town flushed the sparrows out of the hedge whisked them back up to the guttering in a series of squawks. Within a few steps Madelie slowed to a brisk walk and the sparrows had drifted back into the comfort of the hedge.

Walter didn’t recognise Madelie.

“Hi! Mr policeman.”

“Mornin’ …….”. No more than a word and a half-raised arm as the woman in the orange trouser.-suit walked smartly passed him. He watched the brightly coloured figure swinging away from him, her short black hair sculpted to her head. She turned the corner but he failed to recognise the side-on figure and features as she moved out of view.   He thought no more about it and went back to running his eyes around the street.  “Being observant” his sergeant called it.  So he continued walking, enjoying the sun warming the fresh morning with his people-watching and eaves-dropping on his way to a tea-break in a local cafe.

He too turned the corner, stopped briefly to click his radio and let the control room know he was having his break before turning the speakers volume down to a less startling level and entering his usual cafe.  The man behind the counter called a greeting and promised to bring the tea and sandwich to Walter, as usual.

“Thanks,” he called out and looked to his seat at the window.  The girl in the orange suit  was at his table in the window and he hesitated to go there.   She smiled at him, waved him to her and then he recognised her as Madelie, one of the irregular customers at the Jolly Puritan pub.  She used to sit near him, out of the way of the more effusive drinkers and darts players but more recently perched on a bar-stool and chatted with Angel working behind the bar.

“I didn’t recognise you.” He said, sitting opposite.  Her coffee was delivered and “I’ll bring your tea and sarnie” said to Walter by the man before he dashed back behind the counter to the kitchen.

“Good.” She said decisively to Walter. “I decided to change my wardrobe like I’m changing my outlook.”

“You mean from drab beatnik to flower-power girl?”  he meant it as a compliment but she looked at him blankly, stopped the grin before it appeared at his somewhat behind-the-times remark.

Madelie smiled inwardly as she forgave his comment.   “Not so much that. More that I decided I should try the happy, smiley person in me instead of miserable and mopey.  I woke-up this morning and today I changed into a brighter me.”

“You can say that again.”  He said. “In the pub you match all the shadows, dressed in that orange you can be seen for miles.”  Walter felt it lacked a complimentary feel so added, “You look great!”

Silence as his tea and sandwich were placed on the table.

Embarrassed, he took to stirring his tea then gave attention to his bacon sandwich while Madelie looked outside and watched the pigeons, no they were doves, trailing along the kerb bumping each other as they chased invisible crumbs.

“I’m just here for a quick breakfast break.” He spoke to break the silence.

She turned back to Walter and felt again how reassuring she found his presence with his solid form, especially in the safe police-uniform and his not unattractive face. He had let his hair get a bit longer since she had seen him, more over his ears than tightly shaved round them. Even his side-burns had been allowed to grow, she noticed.  Madalie surprised herself by thinking he looked much more fun now than when he had walked her home after the night in the Jolly Puritan. “Perhaps he has decided to go for flower-power!” She smiled briefly at this thought, echoing his out-moded imaging.

Walter caught her smile and passed one back, which they both held as their eyes also smiled to each other.    He broke away first, taking the serviette and wiping at the grease on his fingers. Not completely successful he shook his head sadly and took out his handkerchief to wipe a finger. He was relieved it was a clean one, if she actually noticed!   He quickly stuck it back in his pocket.

The young woman watched him over her coffee cup and sipped at it as he looked back at her.

“Time for me to go. I think of this as fifteen minutes community work as well as breakfast, you know.”   He stood and picked his helmet off the floor and adjusted it straight and strap tucked neatly under his chin.

“I didn’t realise I was your social work” she smiled up at him.

“No, no, that’s not what I meant” concerned he leaned on the table, prepared to sit and explain.

Madelie stopped him with a hand put on his, “I was joking,” she said up to him, “Its nice to see you.

Let’s talk in the pub next time. We can put the juke-box on and annoy them with the Stones or Bob Dylan.  They’ll all ignore us then.”

He relaxed a little. She moved her hand off his.

“Yes, that would be great. See you at the end of the week. My shifts change Thursday so, Friday then?”

“It’s a date!”

He nodded, “See you, then. Bye.”   Did she mean a date? As in date?  He paid for his meal, gave her a surreptitious wave as he walked passed her to the door.  Outside, as he walked on she returned the wave.  The two ring-doves hopped and flapped a few yards away at the policeman’s sudden appearance then settled to strutting and pecking again as he proceeded on his beat.

Madelie had suggested the meeting in the pub on a bit of a whim.  She often saw him at the pub, sometimes sat next to him but they rarely chatted except when it was a quiz or darts night.  On the latter it was more a shout than chat to get any words over the clamour of the players.

More recently she had perched herself on a chair at the bar when Angel was working.  At least  they could talk in the quieter moments.  Angel had become such a good friend. ‘Actually’, Madelie admitted to herself, ‘Angel helped me climb out of the black, lonely hole I was in.’

She went to the counter, purse in hand but, “The copper paid for yours too” added another little shaft of sunlight to her day.

The day breezed along as sunnily as it had started.  Working in a shop kept her busy. Meeting and greeting customers was sometimes daunting but often it was young women around her age and younger that were easiest to talk with.  The best parts was when she was able to help them chose from the new dresses that blossomed round the shop. Mary Quant was on everybody’s lips and bodies, for that matter.

At lunch-time several clutches of noisy girls came to rush their break in the dress-shop in preference to eating.   The newest and brightest dresses hung from the current mannequins on the staging in the windows. One or two models scattered on plinths next to the rack of special design or label, their backs to the rack where the carefully crafted pinning would be undetected down the back of the dress.  From the the front the nipping gave a glowing elegance to the dress despite the vacant chalk eyes and bald head.   Along one of the back walls stood the older models covered in pinafore and printed cotton. Large flowers or blocks of Parisian street scenes flowing down to the shins but failing to detract from the armless and headless upper reaches of the model.

The girls would come and go as individuals, the door opening and ringing the bell like an old bed-ridden aunt who is necessarily impatient for attention. Repeating as the door closed. In a small town most people grow-up together, young newcomers often getting whirled up with new friends.  Leaving school and first jobs means catch-up time when they meet and where better than a dress shop full of the latest, brightest and shortest clothes?

Labels, nippy copies. Bright colours and acid designs. Boucle with its softness and crimplene galore with its myriad of colours and prints.  Mary Quant held apart from Biba, or gingham versus Mondrian next to touches of Monet and Picasso.  The whole shop could echo with giggles and gossip as they dared each other to the lowest V or most showy thigh.  Pleated skirts that flew as they moved or denim that hugged and pleaded with outrageous zips.  Sometimes one would be dared too far and she would buy and hug the bag excitedly with an “I’ll wear at the next party!”  Or “I darent show my dad nor my mum for that matter” even a “Roy won’t know what hit ‘im.  I will have to keep me knees tight” and many variations on the theme.

Lunch time passes and the flocks of chattering girls drift away.

Madelie’s day moves along too and the early morning lady swaps brief notes and gossip with the replacement afternoon assistant.  Madelie, working a middle shift, as it were, makes them all a mug of tea, including the owner who arrives, chauffeured by her son in his new car.  He calls them all outside to coo over his vermillion, open top, Austin Healey Sprite.   “Best car I’ve ever had,” he chirps, “mind you I nearly got the new Mini but I was too cramped driving. This one’s only a two-seater but there’s more room.”

“He forgot to say his old car was a Ford Anglia!”  Said his mother. “He only got this to annoy me; and attract the girls.”

“Right on both counts.” He responded, “Can I take you home, mrs Emersby?” and opened the door for her.  She got in with a little difficulty, hoicking her skirt up higher than intended and trying to pull the hem over her knees after sitting down; failing and resigning herself to seeing her knees within worrying closeness to the gear leaver as he curled himself back into the drivers seat.

She started to wave but gripped the edge of the door as he lurched away.  He flung a ‘sorry!’ her way as he changed gear and they dashed off, the remaining women turned back to the shop.

“I must say, you’ve taken to brighter colours like a duck to water.”  Madelie was appraised by the owner as they stood behind the small counter. “And you make a fine mug of tea.” She took a mouthful and spoke again, a tender tone replacing the jocular, “And you’re smiling a lot more.”

Madelie took a slow sip from her mug and considered.  She watched as a couple hesitated outside, the girl quickly studied the mannequin’s dresses in the window, pointed at one and was ushered away by the young man at her side.  After a few steps she stopped, he stopped and shrugged as she pushed through the door. She moved for a closer look at the dress and he found a nearby lamppost to lean on and watch the traffic flow while he waited.

“Yes,” said Madelie, I do smile more. I suppose one smile just brings on another.” She turned and looked at the older woman. “Thanks.”

No need to recall the darker days of the last few months.  She had turned a corner and realised that music was still playing and new friends were better than the old.  She still missed the black jumper and cardigan and one day she would even dig them out.  Perhaps that little Chinese lady had been right!  Even the policemen were nicer these days.  She put her mug down.

“I had better get on and change these ladies.”   And proceeded to select the new blouses and jumpers for the assorted torsos around the shop walls.

…………..

PC Walter Copper’s day had proceeded in a similarly innocuous way.  He paced his way along his beat, stopping, chatting and observing and by lunchtime had worked his way back to the station.  A quick lunch break in the canteen and then a short time filling in his day-sheet, wishing he had more than a couple of memos in his pocket-book.  No actions other than a brief companionable chat with old Joe the tramp and a brief word on the time of day with several of the old chaps sitting outside on a bench sunning themselves.   A smile and cheery greeting from Winnie the new WPC at the station as they passed; he off home and she arriving for the evening shift.  He cycling, she walking.

A few minutes later and he was wheeling his bike to his front path and the shed at the side where it stood.  He tried to shut the low gate by leaning sideways whilst holding the bicycle saddle to keep himself and bike more or less upright. Just reaching, he pushed the gate and it crashed on its post and latch before catching on its rebound.  The noise of the clash scattered a ribbon of shouting sparrows out of the hedge and into the tree of the neighbour’s garden.

“Sorry spadgers,” he muttered, regained his balance and pushed on to park his bike and go indoors.

The house was sadly quiet as he sat to wait for the kettle to boil.  It took a long time for the water to bubble and the steam to build up enough pressure to push through the whistle on the wide spout.

He sat watching the kettle, knowing he shouldn’t.

“That’s another day without a story to tell.” he thought, “Except maybe the sparrows.”

 

 

Burnthorpe,  Madelie Carew,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coping with Crisis: A Graph Review

Coping with crisis:   Learning lessons from accidents in the early years

by          Bernadine Laverty & Catherine Reay

charlie-and-dream-graph-50-56

A Graph Review : good consistent level of information and style:  50-56

 

coping-with-crisisFeatherstone (Bloomsbury) publication,  2016        paperback   £18.99

9781472917287       177pp,

Includes diagrams, many useful links and index.

The coverage is defined as for ‘all staff working with children in settings registered on the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register’.     The focus is on real accidents and situations and looks at what went wrong to try to eliminate its causes. Their is also considerable information and advice on the regulations on safety and reporting of accidents.

Basic development of babies and young children are listed.  Descriptions of real accidents are given throughout the different subject areas and consequences. Each Followed by a ‘Back to the team’ checklist that offers needs and actions under the headings of: Plan, Do, Check, Act.     Different ‘accidents’ have differing suggestions for each heading as basic examples.  If these are used as initial safety checklists then additional action points could be included to cover such as details required by contractors, information/ notices for staff, parents and so on.   The importance of assessing and providing safe environments should be a continual part of all staff training as well as a key person. Safety is a priority but so is reflection after difficult events.

The thoroughness and concern of the authors speaks volumes as they highlight each example of accident with additional known children who have suffered.  They also point out that gathering full statistics was not feasible at the time as reporting level was a variable regulation in parts, e.g. Visitors.  Ideal for small units and individuals as well as growing or bigger ‘units’.  The age and range covers childcare, nursery, reception class but not apparently much older. The child’s abilities and reactions my change in age but the thinking behind the checklists is still relevant as they move up in Primary years. Indeed the range of  ‘crisis-management’  expands rapidly as children move into years five and six upwards. This book may still be a good starting point as reference for new staff with its attitude to reflective practice and use of guidelines while attendance to more medical courses will add the extra dimensions required.

A short section of ‘Key points’ is available as well as ‘On Reflection’ which covers areas to be considered after any accident.  One area that seems to consistently appear is on parental information given on such as the ‘inquisitiveness’ or  physical ability, allergies and so on that should be noted and known by all staff.  This is where the checklists provided can give a solid start to the thinking process required to improve any failings in equipment or procedures, including training.

The book covers many aspects on accidents: with equipment, scolds and burns, trapped fingers, choking, falls, infections, and others, even near-misses.     This review may make it seem the book itself highlights all the dangers and is just depressing and off-putting.   Well, partially, but in the real world accidents do happen no matter where children are and this book may well be the first to highlight the rules and regulations of safety and reporting of accidents in Early Years settings.

And positively to offer systems to pre-empt accidents as far as possible and to minimise failings in all areas.  Being prepared is what it is all about because we all know that in the best of circumstances accidents still happen1

for books and prices:   www.BooksEducation.co.uk     

subject:  education

Paul Nash at Tate Britain; Edward Bawden at Higgins Gallery

Paul Nash, Tate Britain Exhibition,   Feb 2017

Just managed to catch the exhibition two weeks before it closed. Typical me!

We visited shortly after the David Hockney exhibition opened, which seems to be hugely successful already but were pleasantly surprised at the numbers visiting Nash.

I knew some of his work as a War Artist, probably the most obvious ones!  Also some he did of/at Dymchurch and maybe a couple of ‘scenic’ works.  For me the exhibition was brilliant in moving through the years as he worked and showing his origins as an artist and all through his developmental styles over the 30-odd years of his career.   He trained as an artist and it was pleasing to read that he encouraged his brother to paint too, who also became well known and still is.

What surprised me, was some early poetry Paul wrote and later some illustrations for a collection of war poems.  Most artists then and now do book illustrations and jackets but his had passed me by.  I always like woodcuts and their like for the finite definition on the page.

nash-early-workHis very early work and influence was William Blake’s art and poetry but he moved on, developing (changing) his style and several works show a concentration on watercolours and local scenes, including a clump of three Elm trees at the bottom of his childhood garden.  I fear they will have been killed off by Dutch elm disease many years ago but at least they will have survived in another form at least as Nash did several studies of them.

It’s always a great pleasure to me when I can make some sort of connection and it was happily made when I came across one in his most recognisable styles (for me), what I call his ‘lumpy’ style which is moving towards his method as a War Artist in WW1 but, unsurprisingly, more relaxed and summery; landscapes of Ivinghoe Beacon and another nearby view.

Following on into his so recognisable war paintings ( esp. We Are Making a New World, 1918) and it’s elements of cubism.   Following works showed how in the following years he was picking up and experimenting with artistic movements from the continent.  Surrealism found a long resonance with him, as in ‘found’ art, dreams and now including the media of photography and collage.

His work as a War Artist in WW2 didn’t find favour with the War Office but his movement towards ‘Objects in strange places’ can be seen in his pictures of crashed fighter planes and into abstract and symbolism over the following few years before his death. ( back to Blake in thinking if not quite style.)

totes-meer

Imperial War Museum Collection

 

His most famous painting is probably Totes Meer, painted 1940-41 and residing in tate Britain but alongside this I would put Battle of Germany 1944 as it is seemingly more abstract and softer in tone than the former but powerful to stand before and understand the ‘design’.

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Battle of Germany. Imperial War Museum

 

 

voyages-of-the-moon

Voyages of the Moon

My favourite of the non-WW1 or Dymchurch series (many of which I like, such as The Shore1923, but their emotional weight is a bit heavy en-masse) is probably the abstract from his later period but before WW2;  Voyages of the Moon 1934-7…….  though I have to hark back to second-place for Ivinghoe Beacon.

The last two of the exhibition highlighted his interest in the significance of the sun and moon throughout his career.  Always of mystic appeal as seen in his early work similar to Blake but here on a much larger scale in oil of visionary landscapes and the pre-eminence of sun and moon. Landscapes that include a traditional activity transformed into a wheeling sunflower/come burning sun tearing down the hillside instead of the sky  Another with aerial flower composition to link with his long held interest in flight.    It was evident that his feelings of a ‘life-force’ in inanimate objects stayed with him all his life, a belief in the genius loci  (spirit of place).  Something that many people have an awareness of but perhaps are less willing to accept in themselves.

As always I like his b&w illustrations, woodcuts and the like but they don’t have the influence of his bigger works.  There was perhaps too few of these  variations of his work but the need for display cabinets  would have distracted from the movement around the room.   However, the Tate Britain website says they have 205 of his works. I dont know how many are on display but well worth searching them out on a visit now the particular exhibition is ended.

The fact that he was brought up in South Bucks and is buried in a Langley churchyard, both but a very few miles from where I was brought up is another connection I was happy to have made.  What is sad is the length of time it has taken me to find out!  However there must be a million things I don’t know and have never missed knowing so I have an awful lot to look forward to!

Edward Bawden at the Higgins museum and art Gallery, Bedford

harpur-gallery

The Sir William Harpur Gallery

Just had a browse around the Higgins Museum and Art Gallery where there has been a huge refit and re-design of the gallery and museum. The  Edward Bawden exhibition includes items he gifted from his studio contents and the other display is of a collection of prints: ‘Master of Print’  mostly of modern artists (Picasso et al).  It is select but of superb quality and interest.  I have to wish there was a bigger display of Bawden’s work but the space is limited.  The Bawden exhibition does’t finish until end of January, 2018.

Jump on a train to Bedford and spend a good hour or three there.  Aim for the artworks but the museum side will also steal time from you for its room settings in period style and collections of everyday items as well as assorted art designs from around the turn of the 19th century and forwards.  Not forgetting the local archaeology and town development of industry and people as you walk through.

Two gallery visits in a week eh!

View from a Walkie-Talkie; the Sky Garden, London

View from a Walkie-talkie

The Sky Garden, a view of London in the round.     Or: Daze out in London

If you get off the tube at Bank and exit via Lombard Street you can see the building known as the Walkie-Talkie looming, or is it leering? over the skyline a short distance away.  I have to admit to disliking its external shape despite its probably well-known and understood architectural and aesthetic positives.  It is purely the height and shape I dislike, sorry.

You have to zig-zag across streets and round corners to find the entrance to the building as it is  not quite as close as you thought. When you arrive at its foot you can tell it is a giant footprint but the entrance for the Sky Garden is a small lobby with smiling guides (guards) to check you have tickets and direct you into the queuing chicane where your ticket is scanned and you walk along to the security check-in.   Don’t be like me and have change in a pocket, a leather pouch on my belt that has a Press-stud closure and rivets on the belt hooks!  If you remember to remove all these (as I did), as well as coat and phone and rucksack you may find yourself overtaken by those less encumbered as you try to collate yourself!     Another option is to forget and raise the detector alarms as well as hackles of those helping you through the system.  Happily, in London I have only had pleasantries on such occasions but not so at the few airport mis-haps………

I am not good at heights, I darent go on the slightest of exposed climbs or paths despite bravado or wishful enthusiasm.  Luckily I am now old enough to be open about it and was promised plenty of space between me and the glass walls, even a garden area to hide in.  I had no idea what to expect as I had not even thought about checking this visit out on the internet and stepped into the lift with about twelve other people.  Within a few seconds we stopped, I hadn’t realised we were moving, and we all stepped out.  A fascinatingly fast ride for the storeys we had risen.

skygarden-left

wordparc: view from Sky Garden

Good gracious, I was promised space but had not expected football pitches almost, with a large coffee shop and many scattered tables in front of a huge glass wall and revolving doors leading out to what must be the biggest verandah (nice old-fashioned term) in width and length along the front of the building.  Actually it was the size of a mall’s marble plaza or large, high auditorium.  Steps on both sides led you upwards again through sub-tropical vegetation and beside the glass walls with London sitting all around.  The steps led up to a fully fledged restaurant plus another viewing area behind it.  With beautiful wooden seating and ledges along the back wall (of glass).  This time with a view that included the Gherkin.

gherkin

wordparc

Yes, I did venture out on the verandah, yes I did almost approach the edge with its high wall and higher glass wall atop.   And eventually I stepped to the handrail and looked out on the wonderful view whilst keeping a firm hold of the cool stainless rail.   I suppose I can regret that the sun didn’t glint off St Paul’s as it sat so far below us.  Nor did the Shard look quite so ethereal in the light-grey covered sky and background of London buildings.  You could see St Pancras, KIngs Cross and Waterloo railway stations.  The ubiquitous BT Telecom Tower was but a small matchstick.    Alexandra Palace sat almost on the horizon and assorted blocks of offices or flats littered their way out to the skyline.

skygarden-wide

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Those few steps outside where the breeze slipped over the glass gave you the impression of actually being outside and not on an almost enclosed balcony made the view of the river, its assorted boats and all its vagaries of buildings and streets, look untidily impressive.

The Tower of London, quite imposing from close quarters, was peered down on and its then brown shadowed walls looked compact and enclosing, but small.  Such is the perspective of time and place, I suppose.

So there it is.  A dramatic view enabling much of London to be seen if you know where to look and the weather works for you.   Maybe they will decide on having a model or a map somehow identifying  some of the landmarks that are visible.  Especially for the tourists, who seemed in the majority.  No doubt it would have to be a touch-screen virtual map with the views overlaid with tags of information.   Problem might be if it became more popular than actually looking at the scenes and guessing!   As the tickets are few and far between, snapped up quickly when released for Londoners, it is not an easy place to visit.  Well worth it though, even the coffee.

thames4

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Another few seconds in the lift and we were out as if from another world and having a walk along the Thames before shrugging off the now dampening weather and ducking into the side streets again to find a coffee-cafe in one of the many railway arches.  Here the coffee was delicious and their home-made cakes and open sandwiches were all a ‘must go back for’.

Question:  Where was it?  Looks like another day trying to track it down!

Dyspraxia: Dr Amanda Kirby; Graph Review

Dyspraxia,   Developmental Co-ordination Disorder

by    Dr Amanda Kirby                                            A Graph Review

bodies graph

Souvenir Press   978 028563512 8.         paperback.         £12.99

8th reprint, dated 2009.

218 pp, including glossary, index and directory of resources.                         Plus numerous, gently humerous, but accurate line illustrations.

dyspraxia-a-kirbyThe notes on the back cover highlight this book as ‘a parent’s guide from pre-school to adulthood‘.

In the introduction the author confirms the aim towards explaining to parents, aiding their understanding and potentially how to help the development of their children with the varying degrees of poor co-ordination.  She is also well aware that teachers need to understand and have  a working knowledge of handling children with this difficulty even if not specifically diagnosed.  This book will certainly give both information and help to teachers.

Amanda Kirby is a former GP and Medical Director of the Dyscovery Centre, internationally recognised and published widely as well as having lectured to over 20,000 teachers.  And first -hand knowledge with a son with dyspraxia.  (Looking on web shows Dyscovery Centre as a unit of the University of South Wales, UK).   Clearly written, helping to understand and offering many helpful tips on the various difficulties through childhood to adulthood, for families living with levels of these assorted disorder.

‘Dyspraxia’ also points out that adults may well have degrees of dyspraxia without having been diagnosed but are coping with its associated difficulties.

The book begins with a brief explanation and description of dyspraxia and potential effects within a family.  Frequent samples are included throughout to give realistic views of problems and observations from within sufferers and family members. From pre-school right through schooldays and into adulthood she offers examples of difficulties and tips for the ‘helper’ and individual with the condition.

The chapters move along in sequences of age, appropriate development and difficulties.  Check-lists help pinpoint areas, followed by tips, suggestions,that will help development or maybe use alternative abilities if appropriate. These checklists are usefully labelled for circumstances and parents and teachers. And a chapter for ‘play’ and some helpful ideas, shows its importance for children.  For teachers, the settings are usually in classroom or suggested educational settings and look to be covering more options, some of which are similar to the ‘parenting’ hints.  The parent should be able integrate any of these ‘additional’ ideas into the family routine where appropriate.

Subjects covered in addition to the primary and secondary school ages are such as ‘Bullying’, ‘Helping the Distractable Child’, self-esteem, growing-up and ‘adulthood.  Lastly she has comment chapters on causes (not really sure), when should diagnosis be approached and lastly ‘differential diagnosis.’  Which includes such as ‘semantic pragmatic disorder.

All in all this book is an extremely useful book for explaining and encouraging both those with the varying degrees of co-ordination disorder and their parents, family and teachers.  As with many issues the various activities that improve (in this case, co-ordination) can be most effective if exercised at earliest appropriate age but should be tried even if the need is only recognised later.  Other techniques may be adoptable and successful, whilst understanding and support from within family and school could well have much beneficial effects.

Parents may well be aware of problems early and should find this book helpful from the earliest ages to help reduce potential problems later.

I would recommend this to teachers, especially in the counselling areas as well as parents and those with elements of Dyspraxia.

For a wide range of titles on S. E. N. visit:   BooksEducation website

subject:  education